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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Jul 5;103(27):10310-5. Epub 2006 Jun 26.

On the origin and robustness of power-law species-area relationships in ecology.

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  • 1Department of Physics and Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1110 West Green Street, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


We present an explanation for the widely reported power-law species-area relationship (SAR), which relates the area occupied by a biome to the number of species that it supports. We argue that power-law SARs are a robust consequence of a skewed species abundance distribution resembling a lognormal with higher rarity, together with the observation that individuals of a given species tend to cluster. We show that the precise form of the SAR transcends the specific details of organism interactions, enabling us to characterize its broad trends across taxa.

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